June 8, 2012 |
Nothing new in the world? Nothing left to discover? NASA would beg to differ. The discovery of an "enormous, off-the-charts" bloom of microscopic marine plants in the Arctic has floored scientists. And it confirms, if nothing else, that there are things on this planet not yet seen -- things that you "never, ever could have anticipated in a million years. " So says Paula Bontempi of NASA. An ocean biology and biogeochemistry program manager in Washington, Bontempi spoke with the Los Angeles Times on Friday morning about the discovery. Here's how it came about: Over the summers of 2010 and 2011, NASA's Icescape expedition was exploring the Arctic waters of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska.
January 28, 2013 |
A team of storm-chasing scientists sampling rarefied air has found a world of bacteria and fungi floating about 30,000 feet above Earth. The findings, detailed Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that microbes have the potential to affect the weather. Scientists have long studied airborne bacteria, but they typically do so from the ground, often trekking to mountain peaks to examine microbes in fresh snow. Beyond that, they don't know much about the number and diversity of floating microbes, said study coauthor Athanasios Nenes, an atmospheric scientist at Georgia Tech.
July 7, 2012 |
Bipedal robots, in general, are a pretty stilted bunch. Their movements are overarticulated, they wobble, they topple, and when faced with an obstacle -- even one as slight as a slope change -- they often can't overcome it. But that may soon change. This week, researchers from the Univeristy of Arizona published a paper in the Journal of Neural Engineering that describes the development of a new type of robot legs that mimic the neuromuscular architecture of human walking.
July 5, 2013 |
What if the solution to smog was right where the rubber meets the road? Scientists in the Netherlands have found that installing special air-purifying pavement on city streets can cut air pollution nearly in half. Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology outfitted one block in the city of Hengelo, Netherlands, with paving blocks sprayed with titanium oxide, which has the ability to remove pollutants from the air and turn them into less harmful chemicals. The researchers left normal pavement on an adjacent street as a control.
July 24, 2012 |
Do polar bears face obliteration as a species, not from starvation as the northern ice melts but through interbreeding with brown bears as changes in the climate bring them into contact with each other? Authors of a new report say that's a distinct possibility. The closest relative of the polar bear is the brown bear - matings between grizzlies and polar bears sometimes happen in zoos or the wild, yielding very rare examples of hybrids known as grolar bears or pizzlies. Webb Miller of Pennsylvania State University and colleagues set out to examine the timing of the divergence between the two species, using a whole mess of DNA data - from contemporary brown bears, polar bears and black bears as well as from a polar bear that lived 110,000 to 130,000 years ago. (The ancient DNA was obtained from a jawbone found in Norway.)
April 3, 2013 |
Let that long-held breath out, folks. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer has picked up a lot of mysterious antimatter in low Earth orbit - but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a sign of dark matter. In fact, even with the 400,000 positrons picked up by the cosmic-ray experiment -- the largest number of such particles ever analyzed in space -- it's unclear whether those positrons result from decaying dark matter, or simply from pulsars sending particles into the universe. "What you have probably seen from the data is a significant new measurement," said Brown University physicist Richard Gaitskell, a lead scientist on a different dark matter detector called the Large Underground Xenon experiment.
March 20, 2013 |
Ladies and gentlemen, the Voyager 1 spacecraft has left the solar system - or has it? Scientists are continuing to debate whether the lonesome craft has finally escaped the solar system after 35 years of travel or has simply entered a previously unknown region of solar influence. On Wednesday, a study published in Geophysical Research Letters , a journal of the American Geophysical Union, suggests that the Voyager spacecraft exited the heliosphere - that region of space dominated by solar winds and long considered to be the edge of the solar system - on Aug. 25, 2012.
February 4, 2014 |
Up and down the West Coast, starfish are dying. Casualties of a mysterious disease known as seastar wasting syndrome, they are dying in Alaska, deteriorating in San Diego and disappearing from long stretches in between. Death from the disease is quick and icky. It begins with a small lesion on a starfish's body that rapidly develops into an infection the animal cannot fight. Over the course of the disease the starfish's legs might drop off, or even separate from the body and start to crawl away, as you can see in the PBS news story below.
September 4, 2013 |
Screaming at your teenagers to discipline them can make their behavior worse - even if you otherwise have a warm family relationship, researchers say. The effects were comparable to those in studies that focused on physical punishments, the researchers said. “From that we can infer that these results will last the same way that the effects of physical discipline do,” the lead researcher, Ming-Te Wang, an assistant professor of psychology in education at the University of Pittsburgh, said in a statement.
February 1, 2013 |
Scientists have infused "life" into inanimate chemical compounds by flashing a blue-violet light that prompted them to assemble themselves into a crystal. The feat, described in a study published online Thursday by the journal Science, marks an important step toward creating "active" materials that can repair themselves, such as a smartphone screen that fixes its own cracks or a Kevlar vest that fills a hole made by a bullet, experts said. Showing that microscopic particles can be made to come together or break apart on their own "opens a new area for design and production of novel and moving structures," wrote the study authors, a team of physicists and chemists from New York University and Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.